If you’ve ever taken a course on American history, you’re probably familiar with artist John Trumbull’s iconic painting, Declaration of Independence. The sprawling piece depicts a historic moment as Thomas Jefferson presents the first draft of the document to Congress. The 56 Founding Fathers would later sign the proclamation in 1776, and its cultural significance has only grown since then.
As immigration continues to be a hotly-contested topic, it’s important not to forget that most people living in the United States are here because of it. Immigration has helped make America the great “melting pot” that it is today. To illustrate this fact, the descendants of the Founding Fathers recreated Trumbull’s famous work with the help of the company Ancestry. The result looks a lot different 241 years later; rather than being composed of all white men, there are women and people of color at the center of the photo.
Shannon Lanier, the sixth great-grandson of President Thomas Jefferson, explained why to CBS News: “When you see the new picture, the new image, it’s a picture of diverse people. Black, white, Hispanic, Native American—a little bit of everything—Asian, and that’s more of a representation of this country.”
For many descendants, their ancestry is news to them. With it comes a feeling of pride, but also a sense that we need to work harder in order to make the Founding Fathers’ words a reality. Laura Murphy is the seventh great-granddaughter of Philip Livingston, and she puts it into perspective. “Anything is possible in this country,” Murphy says. “If we can build some connection to our history it may give us a greater degree of compassion and empathy and humanity, which is what I think the country needs right now.”